Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Charlotte’s Web"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Carl A. Rossi


"CHARLOTTE’S WEB"

adapted by Joseph Robinette from the book by E. B. White
directed by Jane Staab

Fern Arable … Grace Brakeman
John Arable … Harold S. Withee
Martha Arable … Victoria Townsend
Avery Arable … Drew Hawkinson
Homer Zuckerman … Wesley Lawrence Taylor
Edith Zuckerman … Monique Nicole McIntyre
Lurvy … Tadesh Inagaki
Wilbur … Robert Saoud
Templeton … John Davin
Charlotte … Merle Perkins
Goose … W. Yvonne Murphy
Gander … Gerald Slattery
Sheep … Sarah Kindleberger
Lamb … Charlotte Horan
Uncle … Michael Nurse

NARRATORS:
Samantha Boucher; Emily Eldridge-Ingram;
Dan Reulbach; Whitney Sandford; Emily Sheeran

SPECTATORS:
Marissa Birne; Wesley Boucher; Marisol Coovert;
Trey Gaskin; Nkechi Kamalu; Ugo Kamalu; Jimmy Larkin;
Sasha MacDonald; Abby Spare; Kimetra Thompson

SPIDERS WHO STAY:
Jessica Ayer; Emily Marie Coffey; Penelope Mack;
Sophie Pels; Alexia Perides; Olivia Rees

BABY SPIDERS:
Samil Battenfeld; Dessie Bell-Kamen; Carolina Bragg;
Camille Brown; Alexis Daly; Ava Fray-Witzer;
Maya Fray-Witzer; Gussie Gordon; Angelique Goss;
AnaMaria Grieco; Katherine Gustafson; Annika Haber;
Benjamin Haber; Audree Hedequist; Hiroshi Irizarry;
Hannah Joseph; Dorothy Levine; Samuel Trust Litchman;
Pearl Mallick; River Mallick; Abby Mason; Becky Mason;
Violet Maxfield; Jaclyn McCauley; Milla Metlicka;
Abigail Mohr; Rachel Selvin; Donya Shavarini;
Jacob Sims Speyer; Rider Stevenson; Zoe Tekeian;
Nia Thompson; Tamyjah Thompson; Adi Volosov;
Talia Vyadro; Aaron Weiner; Matilda Wrobleski

Reviewing children’s community theatre is a tricky business: children want color, laughter, action and happy endings, and critics be damned. Parents want to know if their children (and themselves) can attend without suffering offense, trauma or boredom. Thus, if I lower a critical eye upon Wheelock Family Theatre’s production of CHARLOTTE’S WEB, then Robert Saoud reduces Wilbur the Pig to yet another giggly, campy turn, and Merle Perkins’ Charlotte is more akin to Spiderman than the benign eight-legger whose cunning saves Wilbur from being butchered. But if I look through the eyes of the Wheelock youngsters, then this Wilbur is silly fun and this Charlotte rather moving in her death scene (nor is she at all grotesque --- the audience must love Charlotte, not be repelled by her). Joseph Robinette’s adaptation is faithful, overall, so first-time readers of the book will not be disappointed, afterwards, and Matthew T. Lazure has contributed a colorful barnyard setting along with a clever-clever web for Charlotte’s mission of mercy. Given the vastness of her ensemble, heavy on child actors who declaim and move, woodenly, Jane Staab’s direction is forgivably slack and forgivably understandable (i.e., a chase scene set to “The William Tell Overture”, just for laughs); on the other hand, Sarah Kindleberger’s Sheep, Gerald Slattery’s Gander and Michael Nurse’s Uncle, are satisfying blends of human and animal characteristics. Best of all is John Davin’s Templeton the Rat, a shrewd, detailed characterization: I can give Mr. Davin no finer compliment than saying that the same first readers (above) may very well see and hear Mr. Davin when they encounterTempleton on the page.

I attended the Easter matinee where the youngsters accepted everything onstage with worldly aplomb, while their elders sat as good as gold.

"Charlotte’s Web" (10 April - 10 May)
WHEELOCK FAMILY THEATRE
200 The Riverway, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 879-2300

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide

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